Norway’s conservative Progress Party has found a new conservative candidate to fill the seat it’s been allotted on the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Scholar Asle Toje, who’s currently research director at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, is likely to be approved by the Parliament as a whole.
“If the Parliament approves (the party’s) choice of me, I will say ‘yes’ to the position,” Toje told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “I know the Nobel prizes’ history and the Nobel system very well, so I think this is extremely exciting.”
He’ll have to quit his job as research director, because both he and the director of the Nobel Institute, Olav Njølstad, agree the two roles are not compatible. “If I’m not approved, I’ll continue in my current position, so that’s also been clarified,” Toje said.
Reaction to the choice of Toje was highly favourable, however, with Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre already saying Toje would win Labour’s vote. The acting leader of the Socialist Left Party, Kari Elisabeth Kaski, was also positive, calling Toje “a wise man.” All the non-socialist parties in Parliament are expected to approve Toje as well, with his selection bringing an end to a huge conflict over the Progress Party’s first choice of its controversial former leader Carl I Hagen.
Toje told newspaper Aftenposten that he was “highly honoured” that the Progress Party’s election committee would be proposing his candidacy to the party that also must formally approve the committee’s choice. Among other candidates considered, Toje beat out the former secretary general and prime minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the party’s own former justice minister, Anders Anundsen.
There’s been an effort in recent years to move away from choosing former Norwegian politicians to serve on the committee that annually selects the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Progress Party ran into enormous opposition last fall when it initially nominated Hagen, a longtime Member of Parliament, to serve on the committee. Not only is the 73-year-old Hagen among Norway’s most controversial politicians, he also still serves as a substitute MP who can be called on at any time to fill a vacancy in Parliament. That presented a clear conflict of parliamentary precedent, and after weeks of debate and Hagen’s inability to resign his MP post and his refusal to decline his party’s nomination, the Parliament resorted to a rare vote that did not approve the Progress Party’s choice.
That’s unlikely to happen now. The 43-year-old Toje has impeccable academic credentials including a doctorate in international politics from Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge and he studied under a Fullbright scholarship at Harvard after his initial studies at the University of Oslo and University of Tromsø. He has been a guest researcher at the European Union Institute for Security Studies before becoming research director at the Nobel Institute in 2009.
Conservative, and immigration skeptic
Toje is also an supporter of a limited state and free market economy, referring to himself in 2014 as on the left side of social issues, on the right side in economic issues and conservative regarding culture and politics. He’s been active as a social commentator in Norway and sparked debate last year when refused to go along with the majority on a state commission studying the consequences of a high rate of immigration. He believes that can leave so-called “ethnic Norwegians” in the minority over the long term and threaten Norwegian culture.
He’s also been an active commentator in international media as well as an author of books and academic articles. Now he’s likely to spark debate on the Nobel Committee, which includes a former prime minister and foreign minister who now serves as head of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland of the Labour Party, and is led by the head of the Norwegian Bar Association, Berit Reiss Andersen, also representing the Labour Party. Under the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, the committee is supposed to reflect the current make-up of the Norwegian Parliament, so politics still play a large role in its composition.
“I’m extremely satisfied with the choice of a candidate like Asle Toje,” the leader of the Progress Party’s delegation in Parliament, Hans Andreas Limi, told news bureau NTB. “I’m convinced he will add considerable competence to the Nobel Committee.”
The committee is soon due to start going through all the nominations for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The winner will be announced in early October and the prize awarded on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.